Bringing the Remnants of Ethiopian Jewry Home to Israel

January 13, 2021 | Eliana Rudee
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In 2020, through an initiative officially called Operation Rock of Israel, 950 Ethiopian Jews have made their way to the Jewish state. Pnina Tamano-Shata, the minister of aliyah and integration—who herself emigrated from Ethiopia at the age of three—hopes to bring another 1,000 this year. Eliana Rudee provides some historical context:

Since the establishment of modern-day Israel in 1948, the government has brought 95,000 immigrants from Ethiopia. In the mid-1980s, 8,000 immigrants arrived with Operation Moses through Sudan. As part of Operation Solomon conducted in 1991, an airlift brought 14,000 immigrants to Israel. In the summer of 2013, the Jewish Agency concluded Operation Doves’ Wings, which brought 7,000 immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel.

Today, approximately 13,000 Jews currently reside in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and in Gondar in the northern part of the African country. According to the Jewish Agency, most live in poverty and are waiting to be taken to Israel, which they consider their homeland.

Compared to other immigrant populations of Israel, the Ethiopian community’s immigration has been one of the most drawn out, partially because diverse groups exist within Ethiopia’s Jewish community. . . . Some 8,000 Falash Mura (members of a Jewish Ethiopian community whose ancestors converted to Christianity under pressure in the early 1900s) are waiting to make aliyah from Ethiopia, with their immigration previously approved in 2015 by a government decision.

Yet their actual immigration has suffered multiple delays, which Tamano-Shata seeks to remedy. She believes that some 10,000 Jews who wish to come to Israel remain, and that the Jewish state has an obligation to help them.

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